Red means danger on Mississippi’s highways, group says

Crashes aren’t uncommon on the roads of South Mississippi.
Crashes aren’t uncommon on the roads of South Mississippi.

Mississippi remains in the red zone when it comes to highway safety, a national advocacy group found in a report released Tuesday.

In its 2017 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws, the Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety put Mississippi among the worst states — those it says are “dangerously behind in the adoption of Advocates’ optimal laws.”

Red states have fewer than seven of those laws and the report found Mississippi particularly deficient in laws governing teen drivers.

It would rather Mississippi require teens be 16 years old to get a learner’s permit and require teen drivers to have a supervised-driving requirement.

It calls for stronger restrictions on nighttime driving and passenger and cellphone restrictions. It also notes Mississippi lacks a law barring open containers of alcohol from the passenger compartment of vehicles.

Too many states are still lacking too many safety laws and this is contributing to the problem, Advocates President Jacqueline S. Gillan wrote in the introduction to the report.

“Advocates urges governors and state lawmakers to remember that state laws will save lives and spare families the loss of loved ones. We know what needs to be done — enact state laws to require vehicle occupants to buckle up in every seating position, motorcyclists to always wear a helmet when riding, children to be seated in age appropriate child restraints, new teen drivers to gain necessary experience behind the wheel, and to address impaired and distracted driving.”

State Rep. Kevin Horan, D-Grenada, again filed a bill that would have made open containers in vehicles illegal and again it was assigned to the Drug Policy Committee chaired by Rep. Patricia Willis of Diamondhead, where it died Tuesday.

Another bill would have toughened the law on texting while driving but doesn’t deal with other cellphone use. It died in committee Tuesday.

Another bill would have required teens at least 16 years old to complete a driver-education course to receive an intermediate license and would have kept the permit age at 15 years old, had it not died in a Senate committee Tuesday.

And another would require driving courses to include lessons on how to respond to law enforcement if stopped. The Transportation and Education committees sent it on to the full House.

Paul Hampton: 228-896-2330, @JPaulHampton

Danger on the road

Some of the reasons the Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety calls our highways a major public-health epidemic:

▪  A total of 35,092 people were killed in motor-vehicle crashes in 2015. This is a 7.2 percent increase from the previous year and the largest percentage increase in nearly 50 years. Further, early estimates for the first nine months of 2016 show an 8 percent increase in fatalities over the same period in 2015.

▪  Automobile crashes remain a leading cause of death for Americans ages 5 to 34.

▪  An estimated 2.44 million people were injured in motor-vehicle crashes in 2015.

▪  In 2015, almost half (48 percent) of passenger-vehicle occupants killed were unrestrained.

▪  A total of 4,976 motorcyclists died in 2015. This death toll accounts for 14 percent of all fatalities.

▪  A total of 1,132 children ages 14 and younger were killed in motor-vehicle crashes in 2015.

▪  A total of 279 children aged 4 through 7 were killed in motor-vehicle crashes in 2015.

▪  Crashes involving young drivers (aged 15-20) resulted in 4,702 total fatalities in 2015.

▪  There were 10,265 fatalities in crashes involving drunken drivers in 2015.

▪  In crashes involving a distracted driver, 3,477 people were killed in 2015.

Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety